Ascension Seton Inventors Patent Simulated Uterus


Judy and Jim screen shotAscension Seton researchers have developed a simulated human uterus that can be used to better train surgeons, nurses and others to perform high-risk procedures in pregnant women, such a fetal heart procedures and amniocentesis.

It recently earned a U.S. patent, Seton’s first ever, and sets the stage for Central Texas’ largest health care system to find an industry partner to manufacture and market the new device worldwide and improve patient care at more hospitals.

KVUE-TV and KXAN-TV recently aired stories featuring the invention and one of its developers, Judy Kitchens. The patent was secured by Stephen Chen, technology commercialization consultant for Innovation, Technology and Clinical Research with Seton’s Family Research Enterprise group. Money paid for licensing the simulated uterus will be split between the inventors and funding further medical research at Seton.

Here is part of the story as it appeared in print on KVUE’s website by News Anchor and Medical Reporter Jim Bergamo:

Looking for a better way to train doctors and nurses, Ascension Seton Healthcare asked members of its Innovation and Technology team five years ago to invent something that would help them simulate everything from sonography to intrauterine surgery. The team produced a lifelike device that now has a U.S. patent.

What appears to be your typical sonogram setting is anything but, because the mom is a mannequin – but not just any mannequin.

“First of all, you have to a material that is sonographic compatible,” said Judy Kitchens, the co-patent holder and Ascension Seton’s simulations manager for the simulation and skills lab. Even the most lifelike mannequins failed that test up until now.

Kitchens, along with other Ascension Seton developers, created the now-patented material which allows everything to be ultra sound-compatible. That includes the abdominal cover and the artificial uterus, as well as the artificial amniotic fluid and fetal heart monitor inside the uterus.

“That way, people can come in and perform ultrasound training to detect fetal position, fetal heart assessment and amniotic fluid assessment,” Kitchens said.

The device can also aid in training for intrauterine surgeries.

“We perform laparoscopic surgeries and the instrument can go in (and penetrate) the different layers of the skin to make it realistic,” she said.

To make the training even more realistic, trained human patients can wear the device, allowing for dialogue and intense situations.

“They can perform what we want them to do,” Kitchens said. “They could say, ‘I’m pregnant at 24 weeks and I don’t feel my fetus movement. Something is wrong.’ Then we can call the team to come in to go from there.”

It is the unknown medical situation that can present the biggest challenges in an emergency, which is another reason why Ascension Seton researchers said its patented mannequin has a leg up on the competition.

“There are certain unpredictable situations that medical professionals can face,” said Stephen Chen, with Ascension Seton’s Innovation and Technology Commercialization Program. “With finite settings on a mannequin, you can’t really capture all of those scenarios. This is a device that really captures the essence of team-based communication and cognitive skills training that you really can’t get with a mannequin.”

Ascension Seton is looking for licensing opportunities with industry partners. For more information, contact Stephen Chen at